A/N: The end of this fic is cheesy. I make no apology for this, though I hope Teddy's choice of name meets with approval. :) I was going to call this fic Brave New World as per a certain Bard but then I remembered I already have a one shot by that name. Darn…;p
Strange New World by Jess Pallas
He could see Dora's eyes widening in shock and horror as she panted, still clutching her belly, but her gaze was cold and alarmingly, very determined. He saw her hand slipping towards the spilled box of everlasting icicles with distinct intent. The other had already palmed her wand.
A horrible memory, too close to now, slammed into Remus' head; this very room so many years before, a three-year-old him cowering behind a chair as his parents braced in horror, his father angry and afraid, his mother protective and determined as her hand slipped towards the fireplace poker. And illuminated by the light of the fire he had just barged through, Fenrir Greyback had been screaming and spitting at them both…
And given how well that night had ended…
Merlin, please no, not again…
"Dora…" he half-started. But he was already too late.
For in spite of the fact she was in dramatically rapid labour, Dora was an Auror to the bone. There was no way she would ever just sit quietly.
Her wand hand lashed out as she half rose to her feet. "Expelli…"
But the sentence cut off sharply as a violent contraction bent her double. Remus scrambled desperately to his feet and dived forwards but it was already too late – Bartolph's hand smacked out, knocking the wand from his wife's palm as he shoved her back against the arm of the settee and dug his wand into her neck.
"I said don't move!" he roared.
Remus froze down to the depths of his heart. Dora, her face a mixture of pain and fury, continued to gasp and pant as she clung to their furniture to keep on her feet. Her other hand, still holding the icicle she had grabbed in the heat of the moment, vanished hurriedly under her robes.
"Get out of our house!" she almost screamed. "What the bloody hell do you want?"
There was a mad look in Bartolph's eyes as he stared wildly down at the panting Auror. "What you doing back?" he almost spat. "You ain't supposed to be back here, you ain't suppose to get in me way! I was almost done and you two come barging through and trash all me work! I'll have to start over now!"
Don't provoke him, don't provoke him… Remus stayed frozen but his mind was whirring, his wife at wand point, his daughter on the way, he had to do something, he had to think, and he had to stop his wife from antagonising the chaotic nutter of a werewolf in their living room…
He wasn't getting much luck on that score. "Tragic!" Dora spat back between gasps. "I'm so sorry if my going into labour ruined your murderous plans! What's the egg for, Bartolph? What, are you going to beat someone over the head with it?"
But Remus' eye had drifted back to the egg and its basket, abandoned now on the floor. He drank in the patterns on its curved sides, the colour, the shape of it and the ice around his heart turned arctic.
"That's a Chimaera egg," he whispered.
And it was. There was no mistaking those markings. Laid in summer in high mountains and hatched by the cool of winter snow, the egg of a vicious monster, part lion, part goat and part dragon and lethal from the moment it was born, almost impossible to kill and very, very banned. It could only be found with great difficulty and then only in the remotest corners of…
Greece. Where Bartolph's trail had vanished.
He didn't run away at all. He was after a fresh source of chaos.
But a Chimaera… Surely even Bartolph wasn't insane enough to…
Bartolph's wild eyes slashed in his direction. "Pretty, ain't it?" he all but snarled. "Took me months to track this bugger down but it'll be worth it! They ain't going to blubber about werewolves being the big, bad monsters when they've seen a Chimaera snacking on their kiddies!" His eyes flashed back and forth between the couple, his wand still trained on Dora's throat. "I was all ready, all prepared! I'd been watching this frigging house for days waiting for a day when you'd all push off so I could get at the fire! It was me only way in! Security at the old place, just too tight, ain't it? But I tried to connect a Floo and nowt doing but me, I could tell one were there already, hooked up somewhere off the grounds. And though I couldn't get in it, I traced the blighter all the way back here! And it was warded but I knew I could break them, knew if I had enough time on my own, like, I could do it! And just when you finally piss off and I was all but done…"
Remus could feel his heartbeat pounding a frantic rhythm in his ears. Days and days of feeling on edge, on feeling like he was being watched – was this why? Had some deep, instinctive part of him been aware somehow that another werewolf had been out there, watching him?
And Bartolph's plans… A place this fire led that no other did, that no other could…
Snacking on their kiddies…
"Hogwarts." Dora's horrified whisper beat Remus by seconds. "You want to plant that thing at Hogwarts."
Bartolph gave an icy, manic grin. "Genius, ain't it? In and out, no one would have known. Bury it in the snow in the grounds outside the window and by the time that precious Yule Ball comes round, up it'd pop like a big, hungry daisy and watch them kiddies run!" He laughed for a moment, a vicious, unpleasant peel. "But you're here." The laughter died sharply as though cut away by a knife. "And I could kill you, I s'pose, but that'd be messy and then folks'd wonder why. I don't want no one going on any egg hunts early…" He shrugged with a cold grin. "Well, no matter, eh? A couple of memory charms should sort you out." He grinned at Remus. "And me little mate will probably get you both at the party anyway. You two buggers always seem to be getting in me way."
But Remus wasn't listening. He didn't care. His eyes were on his gasping, panting wife, the wife who was having their baby right now while this self righteous lunatic planned to murder innocent children and for what? Some twisted vengeance on a world he felt had done him wrong? A sick game to get his own back by killing children who hadn't even been born when he'd been locked away?
"What is the matter with you?" he whispered.
Bartolph blinked at him. "You what?"
"What is the matter with you?" The rage inside Remus was rising like lava in a volcano, melting away this ice and replacing it with fire. "The world's done you wrong, so what? You murder innocent people for it? Innocent children?"
"Innocent?" Bartolph snapped back. "There ain't no innocent! They all did it, all treated me like dirt, all left me to rot like a dog in Azkaban…"
Remus clenched his fists. "Those children at Hogwarts weren't even born when you were sent to Azkaban!"
"Their parents were!" Bartolph roared back. "He left me to rot! Kingsley Shacklebolt, he left me in prison and his precious son is going to be there! All those wasted years were down to him!"
"No, they were down to Greyback! Blame him if you have to blame someone!"
"At least he took care of his own!" Bartolph snapped back. "You wouldn't know, would you, you wouldn't understand, the cosy werewolf teacher with his nice job and his pretty wife! I bet you ain't never slept rough in your life! I bet you ain't never been spat on in the street or scrabbled in dustbins for food or…"
"I was there!" Remus' furious shout shocked Bartolph into unexpected silence. "I was there, in Greyback's camp! I slept in the mud six feet away from you, you stupid blind idiot! I helped you scrabble in dustbins! I even showed you where to sleep when you first arrived, scared out of your wits and hiding whenever Greyback walked by! What, were you so caught up in your own misery you never noticed those of us there with you? Did you think you were the only one? I've been spat on in the street more times than I can count and trust me, I know better than anyone else just how vindictive and stupid people can be! So don't you dare tell me I don't understand!"
Bartolph's wand hand, though still pointed at Dora's throat, was suddenly wavering slightly as he stared at Remus with bewilderment in his eyes. Remus could tell he was scrambling to regain the heights of the high ground of bitter self-righteous that his fellow werewolf's revelations had just shoved him off. He'd clearly never considered that his miserable, all consuming plight might have been shared by anyone else.
"You sold out though, didn't you?" he stammered harshly. "Went crawling back like a good boy and they let you off! You can't understand what it's like to have decades of your life snatched away over one stupid mistake, how it makes you feel…"
And Remus laughed.
Bartolph's rant stopped dead. Even Dora, still breathing hard as she clutched her belly with one hand and her hidden icicle with the other, gaped at her husband. But Remus couldn't help himself.
"You think I don't know?" he said softly. "You think I don't know what it means to walk out one day and find the world has moved on without me? Well, try this. You do something foolish on impulse and end up having to pay for it. Suddenly, you've been away for twenty years and then you're thrust back into this strange new world, where everyone's moved on without you and you're running to keep up. The faces are older, the spells are new and you're so behind, so out of date, you don't know where to start. People look at you like you shouldn't be there. They look at you like you should be dead. And you should be because it's not your world anymore, not the world you understood, even if you didn't like it; you think, maybe it would be better to hide away, keep your face hidden and resent the rest of the world the freedoms that you are denied because you're scared of what they'll say if they realise who you are and what you are. And maybe if you've hidden for so long, you'll even come to want to make them pay for living happily in a world you can no longer understand. You'll want to remind them of the wrongs they seem to have forgotten, that they've had time to let pass. Close, am I?" Bartolph's silence was answer enough. "I faced that choice. But I didn't take your path. I didn't hide away. I stood up and I said to the world here I am. Take me or leave me." He shook his head "And believe me, some of them really wanted to leave me, but I was there and they couldn't escape me and in the end, they let me be. They helped me and welcomed me. And I got used to the faces and caught up on the spells and settled into the world in a way I'd never managed before. Because I found that while so many things had changed, they had changed for the better. I stuck it out and they let me in." He stared at Bartolph, almost pityingly, almost feeling sorry for this man who had been unable to move on from the wrongs of the world he'd left behind and unable to forgive those who had. "And maybe they'd have let you in too if you'd stopped resenting them for things long gone and given them the chance to be different. Chimaeras and Lethifolds and Acromantulas aren't monsters, not really; they're just beasts who know no better. And werewolves too – we know we aren't monsters unless we let ourselves be. Greyback let himself be a monster the day his human side chose to be so. And you, Jack Bartolph, who call yourself the Monster Master; that's not right. You made the only monster you've unleashed upon the world. Because the only monster I've seen in this whole sorry business is you."
Remus felt his words die away as the rage that had burned him flickered to ashes. Jack Bartolph was staring at him, wide eyed and incredulous, his wand had shaking, his mouth working soundlessly as he struggled to find words to re-establish the fragile shell of resentment that Remus could tell he had just shattered. But there were none.
And Remus knew this was only going to go one of two ways.
"Now put down the wand," he said softly. "And we'll see what can be done to help you."
Bartolph's eyes snapped up. And Remus knew he'd chosen route number two.
No, Merlin, no!
Remus was already moving as Bartolph's wand hand swung sharply to point at him.
And then the fireplace erupted with emerald fire and a spinning figure clutching a heavy book was flung tumbling into the room.
"I've got it!" Teddy exclaimed almost before his feet had hit the carpet. "I know what to call…"
His voice dried instantly as Bartolph's head whipped round. But the instant of distraction was enough.
With a scream that could have shattered glass, Dora flung the icicle.
"Argh!" As the sharp point dug deep into his face, Bartolph dropped his wand and staggered, bleeding, backwards. Remus was already charging and Teddy was carrying the momentum of his journey – both Lupin men pounced as one, flinging the mad werewolf to the ground in a flurry of limbs. Bartolph shrieked and struggled powerfully, landing a bruising kick on Remus' ribs and a harsh punch on Teddy's shoulder; scrambling desperately for something to strike with, Remus' hand fixed upon a stony, round shape.
The Chimeara egg, with its hard, rock like shell, descended on Bartolph's head with a steely crunch. A second blow, this time from the book in Teddy's hand felled him into unconsciousness.
For a moment, there was nothing but silence. Remus breathed deeply, staring down at the unconscious form of Jack Bartolph, at his startled and bewildered son and then to where his wife continued to pant and grimace and…
"Teddy?" Dora's voice had a distinctly strained quality about it.
Teddy pulled himself to his feet as he stared at his mother with a combination of fascination and horror.
"Yes Mum?" he managed.
"If you could call Harry, love?" Dora managed between pants as he cast a pointed glance downwards. "I think your father and I are about to have our hands full…"
* * *
At some point, it seemed, night had fallen, curtains had been drawn and lamps had been lit. Remus hadn't really noticed. Indeed, he hadn't noticed anything much since his wife had eased the new little person they had created together into his arms and asked if he minded holding her while she catnapped.
She was a squishy little thing, red and shocked looking, but given the nature of her arrival into the world and the excitement she had shared by proxy in the womb, this was hardly a great surprise. Big blue eyes stared out of delicate, if rather squashed little features as she took in the world that had given her such a ride and the two people who had brought her into it.
"Cuddled to death." Dora muttered quietly, startling Remus out of his reverie as he stared down at the precious little bundle in his arms. "I knew it would happen."
Remus glanced over his shoulder from his perch on the edge of the bed to where Dora was lying, pale, exhausted, but smiling.
"I thought you were still sleeping," he said softly.
Dora shook her head. "I napped. I've got too much adrenalin to sleep." She shook her head. "And this was supposed to be the nice, normal baby."
Remus smiled. "Say what you will about our family life. It's never been boring."
Dora chuckled. "True enough." A wrinkle creased her forehead. "Did I hear Harry while I was dozing?"
Remus nodded as he tickled his little daughter gently under the chin. Blue eyes watched his finger solemnly, if rather unfocusedly. "He stuck his head round the door when Victoire told him it was safe. He wanted us to know Bartolph is safely in custody and the egg has been handed over to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He'll drop by and get statements from us in a day or two."
Dora sighed wearily. "Good. I assume they'll be a trial?"
Remus joined her sigh with his own. "Eventually. In a way, I almost feel sorry for him. He was in a very similar boat to me in a lot of ways. He just had no one to help him adjust."
"He didn't let them help him." Dora's tone implied a little less sympathy. "He killed four people and wanted to kill more. He brought this on himself."
"True enough." Gently, Remus placed a soft kiss on the tiny, wrinkled brow of his daughter as he rested her against his shoulder. "But let's not talk about him. I want to enjoy this moment."
Dora's smile broadened. "I think you may have to defer your enjoyment. Because judging by the way our little girl's mouth is sucking at your robes, I'd say she's after something you can't give her."
Remus glanced down to find the little rosebud mouth was indeed questing its way along his shoulder with a grim determination. A small frown appeared between the bold blue eyes as dinner failed to be forthcoming.
Fondly, gently, he stroked the soft crown of hair. "I don't think you're onto a winner there, sweetheart," he whispered softly. "Wrong parent. But you'll get the hang of it."
Dora pulled herself to a sit against the mountain of pillows at the end of their bed. "Come on then, hand her over," she said with a grin. "Before munching on your bony shoulder for no reward turns to tears."
Just as Remus was lowering their daughter gently into Dora's arms, there was a quiet knock at the door.
Their firstborn peaked a tentative head around the door. As Remus glanced over, he caught a brief, poignant glimpse of the sad, wistful expression that his son hurriedly damped down behind his warm smile.
"Victoire's headed back to work now," he said softly as he crept carefully inside. Remus noticed he was still clutching the same battered book he'd emerged from the Floo with – on closer inspection, he recognised it as his mother's old leather-bound family Shakespeare. "And Gran's tidying up downstairs. Thanks for letting me help out." He smiled more warmly down at his new little sister. "It was an honour."
Remus didn't even have to glance round to know his wife's eyes were brimming. "It was an honour to have you here, son," he replied gently, his own heart glowing. He'd slept in the mud and been spat on in the street but here he was, with a wife and son he loved and a brand new little daughter to brighten his gleaming world even further. "And speaking of which…" He smiled quietly. "I know your dramatic entrance was lost in the excitement that followed but I gather you have a name for us?"
Teddy took a deep breath as he settled at the end of the bed. "I do," he said firmly. "Or, I hope I do." He smiled more wryly. "Please say if you don't like it, won't you?"
Dora's raised eyebrow made him laugh, albeit nervously, as he reached down and thumbed through the old, leather book. "Anyway…" he said. "I wanted my sister to have a name that meant something to use, not just some random thing pulled out of mid air. And when you told me, Dad, that this Muggle book had been in your mother's family for generations…" He flicked briefly to the title page where name after name in the Griffiths family were recorded for posterity ending with Diana Griffiths, her husband Reynard Lupin and their son Remus. "Well, it seemed fitting that I find a name from here. And when I was sat thumbing through it in the Three Broomsticks earlier, I happened across this." He cleared his throat and then carefully, began to read.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!"
Remus could feel the smile on his face growing as he realised where his son was going, what the name would be and how beautifully appropriate it was in the face of all that had happened, the triumph of hope over bitterness and forgiveness over revenge.
Teddy smiled with him, hopefully. "And when I read that, it seemed right. So I thought maybe we could name her after the woman that said. I think we should call her… Miranda?"
"Miranda," Dora repeated softly, staring down at the little face staring hopefully up at her. True, the hope was more for food than for a great future but such worries were not hers for now. "Miranda." She tasted it again. "Miranda Diana Lupin. It's different enough not to be too normal but normal enough not to be too different!" She beamed. "Oh Teddy, it's perfect!"
Remus had never seen such relief upon a face. "Really?" Teddy exclaimed. "You're not just saying that?"
"Of course I'm not!" Dora was grinning from ear to ear. "I knew I could rely on my little boy to name my little girl!"
"It's wonderful, Teddy," Remus reiterated before the question could be asked. "Well done. And though your mother has her hands full, I'd say you deserve a hug."
Teddy submitted gracefully to a suitably manly embrace from his father but it all dissolved into hopeless sentimentality when Dora rested her head on both their shoulders with a little face– Miranda's little face - peering up with hers.
And as Remus perched on the edge of the bed, embracing his son and feeling his wife and daughter gaze up from his shoulder, he knew there was no man in this strange new world that could ever be as happy as he was.